12:25 PM

Dr. Kane’s Criminology students go to court

Six of the Criminology, Law & Society students in Judge Flenniken's court: (L to R) Ariadna Sanchez, Alessandra Perez, Elizza Dabrio-Leiva, Aliyah Bustamonte, Monserrat Flores, Coby MontenegroGraduates in the field of Criminology are in high demand.  A group of 19 Criminology, Law and Society students from the University of Saint Thomas-Houston boosted their knowledge with real-world experiences on Feb. 14 when they visited the Harris County District Courts, observing a murder trial and listening to testimony in a case of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child.

Visiting Judge Terry Flenniken, who presided over the second case, offered his thoughts to UST Criminology majors who aim to enter law school after graduation. Judge Flenniken told the students that working within the court system is honorable. He also encouraged their continued studies, providing copies of certain court documents used in the case to expand their knowledge of the system.

Observing the Reality of the Justice System

Dr. Michael Kane, director of UST's Criminology, Law and SocietyUST Department Director of Criminology, Law and Society Dr. Michael Kane, who accompanied the students at the courthouse, commented on the field trip experience.

“The students in my Criminology classes are educated through textbooks, library assignments, guest speakers and field trips,” Dr. Kane explained. “The field trips, such as viewing felony trials in district court, provide the students with insights into the workings of our judicial system. They also provide talking points about the reality of our judicial system and various segments of our society. The students generally come away with the impression that the American judicial system is a special place in defending democracy.”

Some Student Observations

Laura Franco, a student, said, I loved the court cases. Not only were they entertaining, but they allowed us to better understand how these cases are worked through. It was nice to see how everyone plays a vital role when speaking and how respected the judge is throughout everything.

Another student, Ariadna Sanchez, said, One observation I made about the prosecutors was that one of them focused on the emotions of the jury to convince them that the defendant was guilty while the other focused on the evidence, allowing the jury to suspect that the defendant was definitively guilty as well. I had an opinion toward a defense attorney who did not help their client and kept interrupting the trial, which infuriated me. Still, it reminded me what not to do.

Cohort member Marcus De Los Angeles observed, “The trip was overall very worthwhile in showing the basics of trials and how it is not as glamorous as TV makes it out to be. It was also very lengthy, which explains why prisons are at maximum capacity with many people merely waiting for a trial to find if they need to be jailed or not.”

Advantages Offered by UST

Dr. Kane added that the added-value educational experience of a field trip is only possible due to the University’s small class sizes.  

Demand for Criminology graduates is strong. UST also offers an entirely online Master of Arts in Criminology, Law and Society, which also appeals to current criminal justice professionals. Law enforcement professionals give the program a high rating of approval.